Media Guy Replaces Smart Guy


Archbishop Dolan, the darker-horse candidate than black fiddlebacks and lace in a liberal parish, ascends to the USCCB presidency. Let’s speculate:

– It is a sex abuse cover-up thing? If so, the bishops have cultivated consciences over the past three years.

– Is it a big city thing? We’ve gone from Belleville IL and Spokane WA to Chicago and New York. Maybe the Congregation of Bishops really know what they’re doing with their philosophy of upwardly mobile brown-noses bishops.

– Is it a liberal/conservative thing? My own feeling is that our last liberal bishops were appointed in 1979. One priest in my diocese once quipped that our own archbishop (serving since 1995) has become a raving liberal, just by standing pat.

My own sense is that the spokesman for the conference needed to be a “media guy.” Cardinal George had his reputation for being a “smart guy.” Maybe the bishops assessed that “smart” didn’t work too well for them: a pro-choice babykiller Democrat was elected president, FOCA was exposed for being the biggest threat to the unborn in a generation a phantom issue designed to raise money for the GOP, and abortion funding was endorsed by treasonous Catholics and major insurance reform drove a wedge between bishops expecting mindless obedience and Catholics who assessed a moral political issue differently.

Archbishop Dolan can play well to the crowd. He’s not afraid to conduct a pep rally on Palm Sunday. Question is: can he be the media spokesman/conservative/ big city boy people are expecting? What’s your analysis?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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14 Responses to Media Guy Replaces Smart Guy

  1. Dustin says:

    First I heard of the new election was an NPR report a few days ago that addressed the cover-up allegations against Bishop Kicanas. The NY Times article I read an hour or so suggests the greater controversy was actually the lib/con split. I don’t read Catholic blogs anymore (except for you and Vox Nova), so I don’t know how much influence right-wing screaming may have had here.

    Progressives like to point fingers at Thomas Peters as a ringmaster for the various outcries. But I don’t read Peters, either. I used to, but I don’t remember him being as odious as he’s purported to be these days. Maybe what’s true in American politics has become true in American religion: Obama’s election has made a lot of formerly level-headed people completely freak out. It’s just amazing to watch, having never seen anything like it (I’m not old enough to remember Clinton-hatred in much detail).

    I guess, then, it’s an admixture of everything you just indicated. GOP sloganeering and Tea Party fervor has grown so extreme that electoral politics can no longer contain it. These days, I’m more of a politics watcher than a church watcher, and the former is terrifying enough.

    (Getting back on point) Dolan seems affable enough. I don’t have any critical objections, but he just seems a bit new on the scene to hand him the reins. I know even less about any of the other candidates, so I can hardly point to alternatives.

    I’m sorry this is as long as it is, considering I mostly agree with what you wrote and spent most of this comment restating it in my words. I admire you a lot. Keep up the valuable work.

  2. My own reaction? I think in a couple years, he will be the new whipping boy of the people who were supporting him today. All it takes is one decision which does not follow GOP demands — and people will turn on you and find all kinds of “dirt” by association.

    Now, I am not saying the abuse crisis is unimportant — but to me it seems some voices were using it for “political” clout. I don’t know what Thomas Peters said (while I disagree with much which he does online, in person, we interact well) but I know what others have said, and it is clear that “dirt by association” was being used by some, not because of any consistency they have on the issue, but because they found it expedient this time.

    Nonetheless, even if “dirt by association” is wrong, I do think mistakes of the past can be reasons enough for change. Again, I expect Archbishop Dolan to get much of the flack George did. I remember, before he was elected president, how George was one of the “good guys” by some people.

  3. FrMichael says:

    And 90% of US Catholics will be unaware that there even was an election for President of the USCCB. Which is fine since 85% of US Catholics don’t even know what the USCCB is.

    This is truly a tempest in a tea cup.

    My $0.02.

  4. Jimmy Mac says:

    “Dolan seems affable enough.” Now THAT is damning with faint praise if I have ever heard it.

    The beauty, of course, is that this group of clerics exerts less and less influence in either this church or the nation at large.

    They are welcome to keep looking in their mirrors if they wish, but not many others are bothering to do that or to listen to their various pontifications. Certainly the Catholic electorate at large doesn’t.

  5. FrMichael says:

    “The beauty, of course, is that this group of clerics exerts less and less influence in either this church or the nation at large.”

    I agree with you, Jimmy Mac, that this group of clerics exerts less influence upon this nation. However, you are (fortunately) wrong when it comes to the Church, since bishops and their vocation directors are the gatekeepers of the seminaries. The very pronounced conservative bent of younger priests is a direct result of more conservative bishops.

  6. Jimmy Mac says:

    Fr. Michael:

    Agreed. However, that vast majority of members, active or pew-potato variety, really don’t give 2 hoots in hades about what these guys say. It’s only when they get heavy-handed (i.e., Morlino in Platteville, WI) that the slumbering giant gets annoyed. Otherwise, pontifications on birth control, abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. – the cause celebre of so many of their tighty-righty ecclesiastice, no long cause much concern with those who simply take their practical experiences and choose their course(s) of action, irrespective of His Most Gracious Lordship might have to say.

  7. FrMichael says:

    Ah, but you only say that because your Ordinary allows your parish the privilege of a dogma-free zone. Let him put a Fr. Z clone in there and 90% or more would walk out and the parish close.

    Of course, where conservative pastors are– with the backing of conservative bishops– there lies the beginning of orthodox catechesis. Will it be enough to stave the impending collapse of US Catholicism? IMHO it is already too late, but I would be happy to be surprised.

  8. Todd says:

    ” … your Ordinary allows your parish the privilege of a dogma-free zone …”

    Not to mention a Pharisee-free zone.

    I don’t understand the celebratory tone taken toward failure here. That doesn’t strike me as orthodox.

  9. FrMichael says:

    I don’t celebrate collapse. I simply observe it happening all around me in this country.

    A better metaphor is a forest fire. We live in an overgrown forest, not properly cared for. Dead trees and kindling lie all around, festering for decades. What is the fuel? All the corruption of AmChurch for the past 45 years: poor catechesis leading to slack practice of the faith and morals, pervert priests and the bishops covering up for the same, rampant liturgical abuse, and a smug clergy and laity unable to evangelize within the Church, much less draw others outside the Church to Christ.

    Now the lightening strike has hit the floor of the forest– the revelations of priestly abuse and episcopal coverup in the Fall of 2001– and a firestorm far greater than any human agency can cope with has erupted.

    That’s how I see AmChurch. Excuse me for celebrating the firefighters, no matter how inadequate they may be. And for being disdainful of those who deny we’re even in a forest fire.

    What I do celebrate is young men, knowing the severe straits the Church is in, still dedicating their lives to Christ by pursuing the vocation to priesthood. Once the rubble has settled, they will be the generation to reconstruct something beautiful for the Lord. The rest of us will get to sit in sackcloth amid the ashes of the forest we made.

    As for Jimmy Mac, his parish already has its house Pharisees: the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, white-washed sepulchers if there ever were any. Plus house priests who are unable to fully express the truth of the Catholic Faith, for fear of alienating the large majority of the parishioners.

  10. Todd says:

    “All the corruption of AmChurch for the past 45 years …”

    Ha! Laughable. It’s more the institutional stasis and corruption of MaChurch that needs a burnoff, if anything does. Archbishop Dolan, it would seem, disagrees with you. Care to comment on that?

    Sexual misdeeds combined with hypocrisy have often dogged sex-obsessed conservatives. And maybe the JPII bishops were unlucky to be caught in the tailend of forest overgrowth where their own mismanagement and excuses left a laity in shock.

    We don’t need clergy to do our work for us, and a reinforcement of the service-me attitude of many Catholics is something many of us have worked longer and harder to avoid in the second post-conciliar generation.

    Do you not see that part of your solution will exaggerate the old problems? I also know many fine young priests who, though conservative, have been well-schooled by their experiences in ministry.

    The truth is that without liberals, the Church will never be able “to fully express the truth of the Catholic faith,” as you put it. The Body is healthier for being a full body, and not trying to hear with belly buttons or walk on its ears. You don’t get to change it all back to stem cells and work from scratch.

    That said, your metaphor is pretty poor. Even if I were an anti-institutionalist, I wouldn’t be glad for the firefighters working among the embattled prelates of Europe and the curia. These guys couldn’t bring order to a bucket brigade, but I still wouldn’t want to see them burned.

  11. Harry says:

    What’s really laughable is the need to label bishops “conservative” and “liberal” based on the U.S. political model.

    If there is any distance at all between Dolan and Kicanas, the distance is measured in millimeters, not miles. It is absurd to the point of tears, practically, that Dolan has now become a “conservative” while Kicanas is a “liberal.”

    As for the “overgrown forest” analogy, how the heck can we follow the mandate to preach the Gospel to all nations then say the church is “overgrown” and needs to weed people out?

    After the Lincoln purge of the Call to Action Catholics some years ago, one wise bishop remarked, “If I started kicking out all the sinners, we wouldn’t have a church left.”

    And wasn’t this notion of a smaller, purer church, filled only with like-minded true believers what the Protestant Reformation was all about?

  12. FrMichael says:

    Seems to be a misunderstanding of my forest fire metaphor here.

    I’m not in favor of the forest fire. I’m not looking to run anybody out of the Catholic Church. I wouldn’t even run Jimmy Mac out of my parish, should he have lived in my parish.

    What I’m saying is that poor catechesis has led to a situation where Catholics’ personal political or philosophical preferences, conservative or liberal, take priority over orthodox Christian teaching. And American individualism has truly run roughshod over the Catholic default positions of “faith seeking understanding” and giving deference to the Church’s teaching authority in the mode of Lumen Gentium n. 25.

    Most American Catholics are, alas, Americans first, Catholics second. And I would argue the majority don’t even know it– don’t even know their faith well enough to distinguish differences between Catholicism and the general American milieu.

    I have different thoughts about the Church Universal and Her difficulties, but since this post was about the USCCB, I don’t really want to take the time to discuss that broader subject. Let’s just say I’m not a big fan of bureaucratic types.

    “Do you not see that part of your solution will exaggerate the old problems?”

    Since I haven’t offered a cure-all solution, I’m not sure what is being criticized here. Surely better catechesis is to be commended in all Christian ages, as are better priests. As I said earlier in this thread, I’m doubtful that those things alone will turn things around, but surely they will be part of any hypothetical solution. Hard to think of any historic Catholic renaissance that occurred by leaving the People of God in ignorance and led by corrupt shepherds.

  13. FrMichael says:

    As for Archbishop Dolan, if he really thinks the state of the American Church is rosy, well, I refer to my earlier comment about bureaucrats.

  14. Todd says:

    “What I’m saying is that poor catechesis has led to a situation …”

    Two problems with this.

    First, who can demonstrate catechesis was sufficiently better before Vatican II? I might contend that catechesis has improved with a refinement of church teaching over the past two generations.

    And second, since when does the human intellect rule the life of faith?

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